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World’s most extravagant cruise ships
Ziplining, 3D movies, casinos, Broadway shows -- these days, if you can do it on land you can probably do it at sea too
The cruise industry has had its ugly moments this year, but few fans have jumped ship.
Cruise ships remain one of the travel market's fastest-growing sectors.
Cruisemarketwatch.com predicts worldwide passengers to grow from 21 million in 2013 to around 23.7 million in 2017.
If those cruisers end up sampling the outrageous options on some of today's best liners, they'll proabably be back for more.
Allure of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)
"Big" is the byword here.
The largest ship at sea, Allure has a gross tonnage of 225,282 tons and can accommodate 6,360 passengers.
Rooms and suites sprawl over 16 passenger decks broken into seven "neighborhoods." Many interiors are decorated by muralist Clarissa Parish.
Despite Allure's sunny destination list -- from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to the Caribbean -- many passengers never step onto land.
On-board highlights include an ice-skating rink, surf simulators, ziplines, rock-climbing walls, shopping mall, 3D cinema, classic carousel, theater showing Broadway hit musical "Chicago" and an outdoor amphitheater with grandstand seating.
It also offers more than two dozen restaurants and almost as many bars, including the world’s first Starbucks at sea.
Queen Mary 2 (Cunard)
She’s not the newest ship, making her maiden voyage in 2004, but the QM2 is one of the grandest.
The transatlantic liner has a guest capacity of 2,620 with 1,253 staff. The ship has five swimming pools and 15 restaurants where regular wine dinners and tasting seminars are hosted.
Duplex apartments come with a private gym, balcony and butler service.
Other facilities include a planetarium -- the only one of its kind at sea -- as well as a casino, tennis courts, shuffleboard, library, ballroom, theaters and cinemas.
Guest enrichment programs range from ballroom dancing to tai chi, acting workshops and a book club.
There are extensive kennel facilities on board as well.
Small wonder the Queen cost more than US$900 million to build.
Norwegian Breakaway (Norwegian Cruise Line)
The newest ship from the NCL group, the Norwegian Breakaway will also be the largest ship to home-port in New York when she launches in May.
Breakaway’s drama begins before you step aboard: the ship’s hull was designed by American artist Peter Max, who describes the mural as “a composite of New York City and cosmic imagery -- the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline, a giant sunburst, planets, stars and musical notes.”
Music is featured during the ship’s environmentally friendly fireworks show, held weekly and capped by a 1980s-themed deck party.
There are three Broadway shows on-board, including "Rock of Ages," "Burn the Floor" and "Cirque Dreams & Dinner Jungle Fantasy" -- plenty to keep its 4,000 passengers busy.
It wouldn’t be a megaliner without a pool or two.
Breakaway comes with an Aqua Park, with full-size waterslides set beside a three-story sports complex with the largest ropes course at sea, a nine-hole miniature golf course, basketball court and rock-climbing wall.
The ship also features celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s first restaurant at sea, Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian, and an Ice Bar, cooled to a frosty -8 C (17 F).
Disney Fantasy (Disney Cruise Line)
Disney’s newest ship is as extravagant as they come.
The Fantasy lobby soars the height of three decks and features a sweeping staircase, grand piano, marble floors and cascading chandelier.
In addition to adults-only restaurants, a handful of dining rooms cater to kids and families.
Animator’s Palate, for example, offers two nightly dinner shows, while Enchanted Garden takes its design cues from Versailles, with frescoes, ornamental light posts and a two-meter-tall cascading fountain, home to a fanciful stone cherub Mickey Mouse.
There’s a dual-level 3D cinema where you can watch first-run films and a theater where you can catch a performance of "Aladdin!"
Disney characters roam the ship greeting young guests.
Fantasy has eight different pool areas including the AquaDuck watercoaster that zips passengers down a 233-meter acrylic tube.
Seabourn Odyssey (Seabourn)
Though tiny compared with the cruise ships mentioned above, Odyssey is the largest of Seabourn’s ships and is famed for its service: there’s nearly one crew member for every passenger.
The ship’s “Retreat” area features a giant chess board, shuffleboard and a nine-hole mini-golf course.
There’s a casino and expansive spa, complimentary pool-side massages are on offer daily and there’s also a watersports marina -- on warm-water cruises the captain will invite guests to enjoy board sailing, water-skiing, kayaking, banana-boat rides and pedal boating right from the ship.
A steel-mesh enclosure provides a safe swimming area in the sea.
Odyssey has 225 suites. The pick of the bunch are the Wintergarden Suites, which have a private glassed-in solarium with soaking tub and sun lounge.
“Champagne and Caviar in the Surf” beach barbecues include a red carpet in the sand to greet guests as they’re dropped off by landing boat, followed by a gourmet buffet, full bar and uniformed waiters who wade around in the surf, serving champagne and caviar from a customized life ring.